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Struggle on Two Fronts: A Conversation with Jean-Luc Godard 



STOR 


Jean-Luc Godard; Jacques Bontemps; Jean-Louis Comolli; Michel Delahaye; Jean Narboni; 
Cahiers du Cinema; D. C. D. 


Film Quarterly, Vol. 21, No. 2. (Winter, 1968 - Winter, 1969), pp. 20-35. 


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20 


Struggle on Two Fronts: 

A Conversation with Jean-Luc Godard 


''What we demand is the unity of politics and art, the 
unity of content and form, the unity of revolutionary 
political content and the highest possible perfection 
of artistic form. Works of art which lack artistic 
quality have no force, however progressive they are 
politically. Therefore, we oppose both works of art 
with a wrong political viewpoint and the tendency 
toward the "posters and slogan style” which is cor- 
rect in political viewpoint hut lacking in artistic 
power. On questions of literature and art we must 
carry on a struggle on two fronts.”— "Talks at the 
Yenan Forum on Literature and Art” (May 1942), 
Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-tung, Peking, 
Foreign Language Press, 1966, p. 302. 

Because of the kind and the degree of its commit- 
ment, people are wondering whether La Chinoise 
doesnt risk losing adherents to all the political 
"lines,” and whether it doesnt, then, in the final 
analysis, just bring it all back down to film. 

If that were the case, it would have missed its 
mark and be reactionary. What you say reminds me 
of what Phillipe S oilers told me about it. Though 
he, unlike the people you speak of, bases his view 
of it on the idea that it doesn't as a matter of fact 
“bring it all down to film.” To give support to his 
view, he points to the conversation between Anne 
Wiazemsky and Francis Jeanson on the train. Ac- 
cording to Sollers, the scene is reactionary. It's reac- 
tionary because it pits the “real” talk of a real person 
—the talk has to be “real,” he says, because the char- 
acter's name, like the real man’s, is “Jeanson”— 
against the “fictional” speech of a pseudorevolu- 
tionary, and because the scene seems to justify the 
former. 

Do you think it does? 

I think it justifies Anne Wiazemsky's position. But 
spectators side with whichever they choose. 


A taped interview by Jacques Bontemps, Jean- 
Louis Comolli, Michel Delahaye, and Jean Narboni, 
Cahiers du Cinema #194 (October 1967) pp. 13-26, 
66-70; reprinted by permission. Slightly abridged 
omissions available from translator. 


Why did you ask Francis Jeanson to be in the 
movie? 

Because I knew him. So did Anne Wiazemsky. 
She’d studied philosophy with him. That meant 
they’d be able to talk. Anyway, Jeanson’s the kind 
of man who really likes talking to people. He’d even 
talk to a wall. He has the kind of humanity Paso- 
lini defined when he said, in the movie Fieschi 
made about him for television, he didn’t like talking 
to dogs in the familiar terms you’re supposed to use. 
In any event, I needed him, Francis Jeanson, not 
someone else, for a technical reason: the man 
Anne talked to would have to be a man who under- 
stood her, who’d be able to fit his speech to hers; it 
would be just that much harder when Anne’s text, 
if you can call it a “text,” wasn’t her own: I whis- 
pered it to her. I’d tried to find phrases that didn’t 
sound too much like slogans. But they’d still need to 
be linked. So I had to have a man with Jeanson’s 
skill. As it was, and although he was replying to 
really disjointed remarks, he always found the right 
answers; it looks like a coherent conversation, now. 
I was really relying on the allusion to Algeria. It 
places him well. It outraged Sollers. Others just say 
Jeanson’s an ass, and leave it at that. It’s a mistake, 
if only because he agreed to play a role. Others re- 
fuse— Sollers is one; I asked him to be in my next 
movie; so is Barthes; I’d asked him to appear in 
Alphaville. They were afraid they’d look like fools. 
That isn’t the issue. Francis has the sense to know 
that an image isn’t anything but an image. All I ask 
people to do is listen. Start by listening. I was afraid 
I’d hear people say what they said when they saw 
Brice Parain in Vivre sa Vie, that “they wished that 
old shit would shut up,” or even that I’d meant to 
mage him look a fool. Because of the allusion to 
Algeria, they can’t. When I interview someone, inde- 
pendently of the personal reasons I have for prefer- 
ring one man to another, the position I take is im- 
posed by technique. Because he’d taught Anne phi- 
losophy, I thought at first that I’d film a lesson in 
philosophy— a mind giving birth to an idea, 
prompted by Spinoza or Husserl. But it became in 
the end what you see in the movie now: the idea 
being that Anne would reveal to him plans of action 
he’d try to dissuade her from, but that she’d go 


GODARD 


21 


ahead with it anyway. To know whether that all 
exists only in fiction is another question; it’s hard to 
say; when you see your own photo, do you say you’re 
a fiction? To have an interesting debate on this whole 
thing you’d have to have Cervoni, say, for the one 
side and somebody from the Cahiers Marxistes- 
Leninistes for the other. Or Regis Bergeron and 
Rene Andrieu, They’d cover each other with shit 
for a start; but they might, still, come up with some- 
thing in the end; but only if they’d agreed to start 
with film before they finally get into it. 

The reaction from the Marxist- Leninists wasnt 
the one youd expected. 

No, it wasn’t. They didn’t know what to think at 
the Chinese Embassy. They were really put out. 
Their big complaint was that Leaud isn’t all bloody 
when he unwraps the bandages. They obviously 
haven’t understood. That doesn’t mean, of course, 
that they’re wrong; but, if they’re right, they’re right 
at the first remove and not the second, or vice-versa. 
They were afraid, too, the Soviets might take advan- 
tage of Henri ( a character who for a good many is 
far more convincing than I ever thought he’d be ) to 
justify their own position. They weren’t too far off 
the mark: Andre Gorz (Henri reads some passages 
from his book Socialisme difficile in the first shot) 
was telling me it was “the first time he’d really liked 
one of my movies; it was clear, coherent; the con- 
crete triumphs over the abstract, et cetera.** I guess 
I didn’t make it clear enough that the characters 
aren’t members of a real Marxist-Leninist cell. They 
ought to have been Red Guards. I’d have avoided 
certain ambiguities. The real activists— the kids who 
publish the Cahiers Marxistes-Leninistes; they im- 
press you with their real, deep commitment— maybe 
wouldn’t have been as annoyed by it as they were. 
Because they shouldn’t have been. It’s a superficial 
reaction, I think, not too far different, when you get 
down to it, from the kind of reaction it got from the 
collaborators on Le Figaro: “It’s ridiculous! They 
say they want to make a revolution. Look where 
they’re going to make it— in a plush bourgeois flat.” 
Though this is said in the movie itself, quite clearly. 

Can you explain this sort of misunderstanding? 

People still don’t know how to hear and see a 
movie. That’s what we need to be working on now. 
For one thing, the people who have training in 
politics hardly ever are trained in film too, and vice- 
versa. My training in politics came out of my work 
in film; I think it’s almost the first time that ever 
happened. Even if you think of a man like Louis 
Daquin, you realize all he’s doing is coming to film 
with an education he’s gotten elsewhere; a poor one 


at that. As a result, the movies he makes are just 
fair; they aren’t the good ones he might have made. 
All right, what can I say for my movie from this 
point of view? I can say I think it quite clear that it 
views the two girls with sympathy— with something 
like tenderness even; that it’s they who form the 
support for a certain political line; and, finally, that 
you have to start with these two girls if you’re going 
to understand its conclusion. It’s anyway Chou 
En-lai’s. They haven* t made a Great Leap Forward. 
The Cultural Revolution is only the first step in 
another Long March ten thousand times longer than 
the first. If you now apply this conclusion to the 
personal cases, the character played by Anne Wia- 
zemsky, prepared as she is for it, is bound to go 
farther. So is the character played by Jufiet Berto. 
Leaud really goes a long way: he finds the right kind 
of theater. Henri makes a choice; he decides for the 
status quo; he sides with the French Communist 
Party; he’s at a standstill, somewhere inside himself 
—the fixed-frame shot, the absence of cutting in- 
side the shot characterizes this. As I view it, then, 
he’s cut himself off from all the real problems— but, 
I repeat, only if in judging a movie you start with a 
filmic analysis— it can be a “scientifically” or a “po- 
etically” filmic analysis, but it’s got to be a filmic 
analysis— and not the fictional or the political plot. 
Kirilov is the only one who really fails. This is all 
quite clear. Anyhow, it’s the Third World that 
teaches the others the real lesson. The only charac- 
ter in the movie who’s really balanced is the young 
black, I think. I wrote his speech too; it’s coherent, 
though it too is in fact made up of fragments: a 
paragraph from the preface of Althusser’s Pour 
Marx, quotations from Mao, clippings from Garde 
Rouge. Of course, though it’s coherent, there’s still 
something to it that’s slighdy unsettling; Pierre Daix 
has pointed it out: the questions they ask him have 
less to do with the situation they find themselves in 
than with much more general problems. Still, this 
young militant agreed to be filmed, to use his real 
name, and to make the slightly peculiar speech I’d 
written for him. But we’re talking now like men of 
the same world— we might say the same cell. The 
one really interesting point of view here would be 
the view from the outside— the way it would look to 
the Cuban movie-makers, for example. There’s a 
real gap between film and politics. The men who 
know all about politics know nothing about film, 
and vice-versa. So, I say it over and over again, the 
one movie that really ought to have been made in 
France this year— on this point, Sollers and I are in 
complete agreement— is a movie on the strikes at 


22 


GODARD 


Rhodiaceta. They are typical— much more instruc- 
tive than the strikes at Saint-Nazaire, say, because, 
viewed in relation to a much more “classicaF^ kind 
of strike ( Tm not taking into account the hardships 
they involved ) , they are, properly speaking, modern 
in the way the strikers’ cultural and financial griefs 
interact. The thing is, once again, the men who 
know film can’t speak the language of strikes and 
the men who know strikes are better at talking Oury 
than Resnais or Barnett. Union militants have re- 
alized that men aren’t equal if they don’t earn the 
same pay; they’ve got to realize now that we aren’t 
equal if we don’t speak the same language. 

Two or three years ago, you told us you thought 
it extremely hard to make political movies: there" d 
have to be as many points of view as there were 
characters, and an ‘*extragalactic" viewpoint as 
well, to include them all. How do you feel about it 
now? 

I don’t think so, now. I’ve changed. I think you’re 
right to favor the correct view at the expense of the 
wrong views. The “elegant” Left would say that’s 
another one of the Little Red Book’s truisms— 
though I don’t think they are truisms. If you’re not 
carrying out a correct policy, you’re carrying out a 
wrong policy. When I told you that, I was thinking 
that you were obliged to be objective— the way the 
press is “objective”: you pay everyone equal atten- 
tion— or, as they put it, “democratic.” But in the 
sketch I’ve made for Vangelo 70 it’s put quite 
plainly that, on the one hand, there is what you call 
“democracy,” on the other, revolution; that’s it; 
that’s all. 

How do you feel now about the movie in which 
you first got into politics, he Petit Soldat? 

It’s okay for what it was. I mean, it’s the only 
movie a man bom a bourgeois and just beginning 
to make movies could have made if he wanted to 
get into politics. The proof is that Cavaher used the 
exact same theme when he made his movie on 
Algeria. There just aren’t that many. It’s close to the 
theme of some pre-war novels, Aurelian or Reveuse 
Bourgeoisie— ^Im lagged so far behind life. It’s too 
bad nobody else made his own movie about it— 
the underground Jeanson organized, or the French 
Communist Party. They’d have been hard to make, 
of course. But, once again, if I didn’t know what I 
needed to be saying in my movie, the ones who did 
didn’t know how to say it in movies. My movie’s 
all right in so far as it’s film; it’s wrong for every- 
thing else; which means it’s just average. 

Lefs go back to the line that concludes La Chi- 
noise. If s put in the simple, preterite past and pro- 
nounced in a *‘distanf" tone of voice. Mightnt it 


risk, as a result, making us think everything that 
precedes it a phantasy, a day-dream? 

It’s a simple, not a complicated past. The tone 
isn’t “distant”: it’s the tone of voice Bresson’s hero- 
ines always have. As for it being a “phantasy,” it’s 
precisely because she’s realized so much that Vero- 
nique will be able to make it something more than 
a day-dream. Besides, the tone in which she says the 
line is soft; it’s calm, like the Chinese. I was really 
impressed at the Chinese Embassy by how softly 
they speak. It’s the tone of a final report. She re- 
alizes she hasn’t made a Great Leap Forward. Just 
one timid step in advance— though she has, in fact, 
already seen lots of action; she’s gone so far as to 
kill the man who “never wrote Quiet Flow^ the 
Don!"" 

A movie on the strikes at Rhodiaceta would have 
led to a quite different kind of realisation . . . 

Yes, it would. But if it were made by a movie- 
maker, it wouldn’t be the movie that should have 
been made. And if it were made by the workers 
themselves— who, from the technical point of view, 
could very well make it, if somebody gave them a 
camera and a guy to help them out a bit— it still 
wouldn’t give as accurate a picture of them, from 
the cultural point of view, as the one they give when 
they’re on die picket-lines. That’s where the gap 
lies. 

The movie-maker has to learn how to be their 
relief. 

Yes, he has to learn how to take his place in the 
line. Learn how to pass the word along, a new way, 
to others. 

In La Chinoise, film assumes so many, such di- 
verse forms that they might cancel each other out. 

The thing is, I used to have lots of ideas about 
film. Now I don’t, none at all. By the time I made 
my second movie, I no longer had any ideas what 
film was. The more movies you make, the more you 
realize that all you have to work with— or against, it 
comes down to the same thing— is the preconceived 
ideas. That’s why I think it’s a crime that it isn’t a 
man like Moullet whom they hire to make movies 
like Les Adventuriers or Deux Billets pour Mexico. 
The way it’s a crime that Rivette’s being forced— 
he now after all the others who’ve been exploited 
by the Gestapo of economic and aesthetic structures 
erected by the Holy Production-Distribution-Exhi- 
bition Alliance— to reduce a statement five hours 
long to the sacrosanct hour and a half. 

Do you think you*ve made any discoveries in 
film? 

One: what you must do to be able to make a 
smooth transition from one shot to the next, given 


GODARD ranssa 

Anne Wiazemsky 
and Jean-Luc 
Godard during 
shooting of 
La Chinoise. 



two different kinds of motion— or what's even hard- 
er, a shot in motion and a motionless shot. Hardly 
anyone ever does it, because they hardly ever think 
of doing it. So, you can join any one shot and any 
other; a shot of a bicycle to a shot of a car, say, or a 
shot of an alligator to a shot of an apple . . . People 
do do it, I guess, but pretty haphazardly. If you edit 
not in terms of ideas, the way Rossellini edits the 
beginning of India— that poses quite different prob- 
lems— but in terms of form . . . when you edit on the 
basis of what's in the image and on that basis only 
. . . not in terms of what it signifies but what signi- 
fies it, then you've got to start with the instant the 
person or thing in motion is hidden or else runs into 
another and cut to the next shot there. If you don't, 
you get a slight jerk. If you want a slight jerk, fine. 
If you don't, there's no other way to avoid it. The 
women who do my cutting can do it all by them- 
selves, now. I hit on it in A Bout de Souffle and I’ve 
been using it systematically ever since. 

You said you dont have any ideas about film now. 
But ifs still very much there in La Chinoise. Ifs even 
thematic . . . 

It asks questions about film because film is begin- 
ning to ask itself questions. I don't see anyway how 
I could have kept it from coming into the movie 
less than it does— though it tends in effect, paradox- 
ically, to narcissism. In this sense, the camera that 
filmed itself in a mirror would make the ultimate 
movie. 

As in your sketch for Loin du Vietnam? 

No, not entirely. There wasn't any other way to 
do it, there. It had to be pushed to just that extreme. 
Because we are all narcissists, at least when it comes 
to Vietnam; so we might just as well admit it. 


Your characters think the Soviet communists have 
^'betrayed** Marxism. Do you think so too? 

I've made a movie I call La Chinoise, in which I 
adopt, against the point of view of the French Com- 
munist Party, the point of view of the writings of 
Mao Tse-tung or the Cahiers Marxistes-Leninistes. 
I repeat, it is film that's imposed the direction I take, 
which explains why the Cahiers Marxistes-Lenin- 
istes can accuse it of being ‘leftist" and why UHu- 
manite Nouvelle can even attack it for being a 
“fascist provocation." But, even if there is some 
truth in these opinions, it's still not quite that sim- 
ple; for, insofar as it's a question of film, the ques- 
tion's been poorly framed. 

How do you explain the impact the revisionist 
Henris statement has had on a good many? 

I hadn't foreseen it, but it makes sense to me now. 
At one point, four gang up against one. That's all. 
If you'd film Guy MoUet one against four, it's Guy 
Mollet, that stupid ass, who as the underdog is going 
to get all the sympathy. 

Henris the only one of the five who explains 
himself completely. 

No, you're wrong. People think he's the only one 
who explains himself “completely." The others don't 
need to, to the extent that things are just that much 
clearer for them. You have to take into account, too, 
that people are apt to favor the guy whose views 
they prefer; that, in any case, they're incapable of 
being good listeners; and that they don't, in addi- 
tion, ever attempt to make a final accounting of 
what they've heard the characters say. 

Renoir has already asked what immediate effect 
film might have. He's remarked that the war broke 
out just after he'd made La Grande Illusion— a movie 


24 


GODARD 


in behalf of peace. 

Exactly. Film hasn't the slightest effect. They 
thought, once, that UArrivee du Train en Gate 
would scare people out of their seats. It did— the 
first time, but never again. That's why I've never 
been able to understand censorship, not even its 
ontological grounds. It seems to be based on a no- 
tion that image and sound have an immediate effect 
on the way people behave. 

Though you cant really trace the influence an 
image exerts . . . 

Correct. But, then again, no more and no less than 
the effects any of the rest might have— in other 
words, no more than you can the effects of the whole 
thing. Because everything exerts some influence. If 
you leave out that part of film that people call “tele- 
vision," we could say that film “has the influence" of 
scientific research, theater, or chamber music. 

Does this diminish your confidence in film? 

No, not at all. But you've got to realize that the 
millions of people who've seen Gone with the Wind 
have been no more influenced by it than the many 
fewer who've seen Potemkin. There 've been some 
attempts to blame film for juvenile delinquency. But 
the people who've tried it don't seem to have noticed 
that in precisely the same period that juvenile de- 
linquency was on the rise in the USA, movie-at- 
tendance was dropping off sharply. The sociologists 
haven't even begun to study the question. 

The first shots youve ever made of the rural scene 
come in La Chinoise: the two shots of the country- 
side that remarks on the farm-problem accompany 
off ... 

Yes. UPIumanite called them picture-postcards. I 
don't know. All I can say is, as soon as we saw a 
meadow, a cow, and some chickens, we stopped the 
car and shot some footage. Then we turned around 
and drove home. I don't see anything wrong in that. 
I had to have these shots, because Yvonne had come 
up from the country, and because one of my char- 
acters had a couple of things to say about rural prob- 
lems. 

The character Juliet Berto plays is new for your 
film. 

I wanted something besides Parisians. I wanted 
someone who'd come up from the country, so I 
could illustrate another of the vices of our society: 
centralization. Someone, too, who in contrast to the 
others has nothing, who's dispossessed. Someone 
sincere, who has a feeling there's something their 
little group can do. She has access through them to 
the culture that's been refused her. She used to 
think it dropped from the skies. Then she started 


reading the papers. Now she's selling them. It's a 
flrst step. 

In the traveling shot along the balcony during the 
theoretical presentations, the division of space by 
the three windows divides the “ class'" into three 
groups: ^'professor ” '"pupils," and Yvonne, the 
maid, who's shining shoes or washing dishes the 
whole time. 

I had to show that even for those who'd like to 
live without them, social classes still exist. It's just 
at that moment you hear someone asking, “Will class 
struggle always exist?" 

The first two categories— “professor" and “stu- 
dents"— can still relate, interact. But the third is 
effectively kept to the side. 

But it's only physically, not mentally, that she's 
“forbidden" a part in the discussion. Or else it's 
“tactically": because at the end of the movie she's 
no longer forbidden to take part in it all. For one 
thing, she's voted. There's no doubt she discovers 
that it's she who, in the final analysis, has come much 
closer to the others than they have to her personal 
reality— which they should have explored, but they 
haven't; they've put if off. So, of all the characters 
it's the little farm-girl who covers the most ground. 
Then comes Leaud, then Anne, then Henri. 

The movie is made up of a series of short se- 
quences that seem to be quite independent of one 
another. 

It's the kind of movie that's made in the cutting. 
I shot self-contained sequences, in no particular 
order; I put them in order afterwards. 

Does that mean it might have been different? 

No, it doesn't. There was an order, a continuity 
that I had to find. I think it's the one that's in the 
movie. We shot it ... in the order that we shot in! 
Though as a rule I shoot the sequences in order, in 
some kind of continuity; I mean, with some clear 
idea of the movie's chronology and its logic— even 
if I've found myself having to change the order of 
whole sequences. This is the first time the order in 
which I shot a movie presupposed nothing. It hap- 
pened, of course, that I'd know right when I shot 
them that two different shots would go together- 
two shots in the same discussion, for example; but 
not always ... For the most part, they were inde- 
pendent. The linking came later. So they aren't 
independent now; they're at least complementary 
if not also coherent. 

That was the point of view on which you relied? 
Was it some notion of a purely logical kind of co- 
herence? Or was it emotional? Or was it simply a 
visual coherence? 


GODARD 


: 25 


Logical. Always. But logic can be conveyed in a 
thousand ways. Let’s take an example. One of the 
texts in the presentation is a speech of Bukharin’s. 
Right after it’s read there comes a title: “Bukharin 
made this speech.” Next, you see a photo of Bu- 
kharin’s accuser. Of course, I could have used a 
photo of Bukharin himself. But I didn’t need to: 
you’d just “seen” him in the person who reads the 
speech. So, I had to show his adversary: Vichynski— 
and, eventually, Stalin. Okay: photo of Stalin. And 
because it’s a young man who speaks in the name of 
Bukharin, the Stalin in the photo is young. That 
takes us then to the time when the young Stalin was 
already at odds with Lenin. But by that time Lenin 
was married. And one of Stalin’s greatest enemies 
was Lenin’s wife. So, right after the photo of the 
young Stalin: photo of Uhanova. That’s quite logi- 
cal. What has to come next? Well, it’s revisionism 
that toppled Stalin. So, next, you see Juliet reading 
an ad in France-Soir- Soviet Russia is busy publiciz- 
ing Tsarist monuments. Right after you see the men 
who in their youth killed the Tsar. It’s a little like 
a theorem that presented itself as a puzzle. You 
have to see which pieces fit. You’ve got to use in- 
duction, feel your way, deduce. But, in the final 
analysis, there’s only one possible way to fit them 
together, even if you have to try several things to 
find it. 

So what you do when you edit is work that most 
movie-makers do in their shooting-scripts. 

In a sense, yes. But it’s work that just isn’t in- 
teresting if you do it on paper. Because if it’s paper 
work you like, I don’t see why you make movies. 
On this point. I’m in agreement with Franju: as 
soon as I’ve imagined a movie, I consider it made: 
I can more or less tell it; so why should I go ahead 
and shoot it? Oh, to do right by the pubfic, I guess: 
Franju says it’s “so the pubfic has something to 
chew on.” He says something like this^ “When I’m 
done with my eight hundred pages, I really don’t 
see what else I’ve got to do. So they want me to 
shoot it. Okay. I shoot it. But it’s all so depressing, 
I have to get drunk first.” There’s just one way to 
avoid that: don’t write scripts. 

So ifs as if you shoot in the dark, but in com- 
plete freedom too? 

No, that isn’t it. It’s only in shooting that you 
find out what you’ve got to shoot. It’s the same 
thing in painting: you put one color next to an- 
other. Because you make film with a camera, you 
can just as easily get rid of the paper. Unless you 
decide to do what McLaren does— and he’s one of 
the greatest men working in film— and write your 


movies right on the stock. 

So when you shoot ifs as if you collect a lot of 
stuff you have to sort later . . . 

No, it isn’t. It’s not just “a lot of stuff.” If it’s a 
“collection,” it’s a collection that always has a 
particular end in view, a definite aim. And it isn’t 
just “any” movie: it’s always a particular movie. 
You “collect” only the stuff that can meet your 
needs. It’s almost the reverse for my next movie: 
the structure’s all there; it’s entirely organized. All 
I had for La Chinoise were the details, lots of de- 
tails I had to find how to fit together. I’ve got the 
structure for Week-end, but not the details. It’s sort 
of frightening: what if I don’t find the right ones? 
What if I can’t keep my promise— because, after all, 
for the money they give me, I promise to make 
them a movie. No, that’s all wrong. You shouldn’t 
think about work in terms of a debt or a duty— in 
the bad sense of the word; you should think about 
it in terms of some normal activity: leisure, fife, and 
breathing evenly; the tempo has to be right. 

One of your characters says that Michel Foucault 
has confused words and things. Do you share his 
opinion? 

Oh God, the Reverend Doctor Foucault! The 
first thing I did was read the first chapter in his 
latest book, the analysis of Velasquez’ las Meninas. 
I skipped through the rest of it; I picked up a little 
here and there— you know I can’t read. Some time 
later I was at Nanterre, looking for locations. In 
talking to students and professors there, I began to 
appreciate the real inroads the book had been 
making in the academic establishment. So I went 
back to it again, with this in mind. It began to look 
really debatable. The current vogue for the “hu- 
manities” in the daily press seems very suspicious. 
I heard that Gorse had been thinking about mak- 
ing Foucault head of the Radio-Television. I have 
to admit I preferred Joanovici. 

In this connection, how do you view the use of 
linguistics in the study of film? 

As a matter of fact, I was just talking about it 
with Pasolini, at Venice. I had to talk to him be- 
cause, as I’ve told you, I can’t read, or at least not 
the stuff men like him have been writing about film. 
I just don’t see the point. If it interests him, I mean 
Pasolini, to talk about “prose film” and “poetic 
film,” okay. But if it’s somebody else, well ... If 
I read the text on film and death Cahiers published 
in French, I read it because he’s a poet and it talks 
about death; so, it’s got to be beautiful. It’s beauti- 
ful like Foucault’s text on Velasquez. But I don’t 
see the necessity. Something else might be just as 


26 


GODARD 


true. If Fm not so fond of Foucault, it's because he's 
always saying, ‘‘During this period, people thought 
‘A,B,C'; but, after such and such a precise date, 
it was thought, rather, that ‘1,2,3'." Fine but can 
you really be so sure? That's precisely why we're 
trying to make movies so that future Foucaults 
won’t be able to make such assertions with quite 
such assurance. Sartre can’t escape this reproach, 
either. 

And what did Pasolini say? 

That I was a stupid ass. Bertolucci agreed, in 
the sense that I’m too much of a moralist. But . . . 
Well, I’m still not convinced. It means you’re going 
to wind up in the kind of “filmology” they used to 
teach at the Sorbonne, or even something much 
worse. Because, when you get right down to it, Sam 
Spiegel’s in complete accord with all this stuff 
about “prose film” and “poetic film.” Though he’d 
say that “he’s going to make ‘prose film’: 'poetic 
film’ bores the public shitless.” It’s the same old 
thing all over again: people borrow and then dis- 
tort some interesting ideas; Hitler revisiting Nie- 
tzsche ... I view linguistics the way Leclerc might 
—or, even worse, Poujade. But I still have to agree 
with Moullet. At Pesaro he talked commonsense . . . 

But ifs precisely a man like Levi-Strauss who 
refuses to make random use of linguistic termi- 
nology. He uses it only with the greatest caution. 

I agree. But when I see him use Wyler as an 
example when he talks about film, it makes me un- 
happy. I tell myself that if he, as an ethnologist, 
prefers the Wyler tribe, I much prefer the Murnau 
tribe. Here’s another example: Jean-Louis Baudry 
has published an article in Les Lettres Frangaises. 
As I was reading it, I kept saying, “This is really 
good writing! Here’s a guy who ought to write 
something on Persona. He’d do a really good job.” 
This thing is, the article I was reading was supposed 
to be an article on Persona. Metz, too; he’s a peculiar 
case. He’s the easiest to like of them all: because he 
actually goes to movies; he really likes movies. But 
I can’t understand what he wants to do. He begins 
with film, all right. But then he goes off on a tan- 
gent. He comes back to film from time to time; 
he’ll poke around in it for a bit. But then he’s off 
again on another track. What bothers me is that 
he seems not to have noticed; it’s unconscious. If 
it were a question of research in which film were 
only a tool. I’d see no objection. But if it’s film 
that’s supposed to be the object of the research, 
then I don’t understand. It’s not that there’s con- 
tradiction in what he’s doing; it’s more like some 
real antagonism. 


But Metz just isnt interested in what interests us. 

All right. But there’s still some common ground 
it’s all got to be based on. The way it looks to me, 
they leave this common ground much too often. I 
can understand, in some general sense, the intui- 
tions Pasolini begins with; but I don’t see the need 
for the logical development that follows. If he 
thinks a shot in a movie of Olmi’s is “prosaic” and 
a shot in a movie of Bertolucci’s “poetic,” all right. 
But, objectively, he could say just the opposite. 
Their tactics resemble Cournot’s when he rejects 
one whole kind of film because, in his view, it just 
“isn’t film”; so, he’s forced to reject Ford; but only 
because he can’t tell Ford from Delannoy! That’s 
not in the least enlightening. This all brings to 
mind Barthes’ recent book, the book on fashion. It’s 
impossible to read, for one simple reason: Barthes 
reads things he ought to be seeing and feeling in- 
stead: it’s something you wear^ so it’s got to be some- 
thing you live. I don’t think he’s really interested in 
fashion: it isn’t fashion as such that attracts him; 
it’s some kind of dead language that he can decode. 
You had the same kind of thing at Pesaro. Barthes 
scolded MouUet the way a father scolds his kids. 
But we’re the sons of a filmic language; there’s 
nothing in the Nazism of linguistics we have any 
use for. Notice: we always come back to how hard 
it is for us all to be talking about “the same thing.” 
The people who publish Tel Quel seem capable of 
making some really basic discoveries in science and 
literature. But as soon as it’s film, something seems 
to elude them. Men who know film really well talk 
about it in quite different terms— whether it’s you 
on Cahiers or Rivette and I when we’re talking 
about the movies that have just come out or the 
people on Positif when they’re talking about Jerry 
Lewis or Cournot when he says of Lelouch that 
“it isn’t a question of ‘feeling,’ but it isn’t a question 
of ‘thinking’, either.” This reminds me again of 
the talk I had with Sellers. He reproached me for 
talking '‘in examples.” “He said I kept saying 'it’s 
the same thing as” or it’s like.” But I don’t talk 
“in examples.” I talk in shots, like a movie-maker. 
So I just had no way to get him to understand me. 
I’d have had to make a movie we could have talked 
about afterwards. What it signifies on the screen 
for him is maybe what “signifies it” for me. There’s 
got to be something right there that we’ve got to 
clear up; it’s probably pretty simple, too. It’s some- 
what similar with painting: if Elie Faure moves us, 
it’s because he talks about a painting as if he were 
talking about a novel. Somebody should finally get 
around to translating the twenty volumes of Eisen- 


GODARD 


27 


stein that nobody’s read: he’ll have dealt with it 
all in very different terms. He began with technique, 
too, the very simplest problems, so he could get on 
to the hardest. He goes from the travelling to No 
theater so that he can get back to explaining the 
Odessa Steps. The place to look for an ideology is 
in a technique. The way Regis Debray finds the 
revolution in Latin America in the guerrilla. The 
only thing is, the ideology of film has so decayed, 
it’s so rotten that it’s harder here to make a revolu- 
tion than anywhere else. Film is one of the things 
that exists in purely practical terms. You’ll find that 
here, too, the economic forces at work have laid 
down an ideology of their own that has, little by 
little, eliminated all the rest. The others are begin- 
ning to re-emerge, right now; some of the best 
are among them. In this connection, a lot of the 
stuff Noel Burch has written is very interesting. 
What he has to say about raccords is strictly prac- 
tical. You have a feeling they’re the view of a man 
who’s done it himself, who’s thought about what is 
involved in doing it— a man who has come to cer- 
tain conclusions on the basis of his physical han- 
dling of film. Well, all you’d need to get it all down 
in a orderly list is some serious, well-organized 
*^eam-effort. The best work a new nation could do 
to get started is something along those lines. Al! 
they’ve got to do is buy some good movies, start 
a film library, and study movies. They can make 
them later. They can learn while they’re waiting. 
Before getting yourself involved with what the lin- 
guists call a “scientific” analysis of film, you’d do 
better to list the scientific facts of film. Nobody’s 
done it. Though it still could be done- the projec- 
tions at the Grand Cafe weren’t that long ago; 
Niepce’s first plates are still at Chalon. But if you 
wait too long, you won’t be able to do it. Movies 
disintegrate. Even books fall apart. Movies fall apart 
a lot faster. In two hundred years you won’t be able 
to find a single one of our movies. There’ll be a few 
bits and pieces— of bad movies as well as the good: 
the laws to protect the good movies still won’t have 
been made. So, the art we’re working in is really 
short-lived. When I started to make movies, I 
thought film something that lasts forever. Now I 
think it something really short-lived. 

So the incompatibility in the language of the 
writers and movie-makers is just as severe as it is 
for movie-makers and the strikers at Rhodiaceta— 
though the writers have already had a good deal 
to say about film. 

Well, if they have, it’s often only because movies 
sometimes refer to literary forms or simply just 
cite literary texts. 

Wiazemsky and Leaud: La Chinoise. 


Do you think it’s your use of collages that leads 
Aragon to write about you? 

Maybe it’s the digressions that have attracted 
him: the fact that there’s someone who uses them 
as digressions, besides as a structural device. In any 
event, Aragon is a poet, which means that anything 
he has to say is beautiful. If you don’t talk about 
films in poetic terms, then you’ve got to be talking 
about it in scientific terms. We haven’t reached 
that point yet. Notice this one simple fact: you go 
to a theater to see a movie; you never ask why; 
though there is simply no reason why movies should 
be shown in theaters. This in itself is revealing. 
Of course, they way things are, you’ve got to have 
theaters. But they shouldn’t be more than some- 
thing like a deconsecrated church or a track field: 
you should hold onto them; people will go a theater 
to see an occasional movie; there’ll be a day when 
they’ll want to see a movie on a big screen; or like 
the way an athlete will go out to train by himself 
in the middle of the week; he wants to be far from 
the frenzy, the racket, the drugs of the weekend 
meets. Ordinarily, you should be able to see movies 
at home, on a television set or a wall. It’s feasible, 
but nobody’s doing anything about it. For a long 
time, now, the factories ought to have had screen- 
ing-rooms; someone should have investigated what 
increasing the size of TV screens involves, practi- 
cally. Nobody has. They’re all scared. 



28 


GODARD 


Do you think there is a connection between the 
ways film is distributed and exhibited— theaters, 
chains, and so on— and its aesthetics? 

If these conditions were to change, everything 
else would change, too. A movie is subject today to 
an unbelievable number of really arbitrary rules. 
A movie is supposed to last an hour and a half. 
A movie is supposed to tell a story. All right. A 
movie tells a story. We all agree. The only thing is, 
we don’t agree on what a “story” is, what it’s “sup- 
posed” to be. You see, today, that the silents had 
immeasurably more freedom than the talkies— or, 
at any rate, what they turned the talkies into. Take 
as unimaginative a director as Pabst: he gives you 
a feeling that he’s playing a grand. A movie-maker 
today who has no more than Pabst’s talent, if he 
analyzes his own case correctly, has to feel that he’s 
playing not much more than a toy. It’s all a 
state of mind. For example, when someone’s build- 
ing a theater, he never takes the trouble to ask the 
advice of a cameraman or a director. And nobody’s 
ever going to ask advice of a viewer. So, as a result, 
the three most interested parties never have a 
chance to make their desires known. It’s true they 
build houses this way too. But the guys who design 
theaters are always the worst they can find. And 
they’re never the ones who go to see movies. 

What could we do, at short range, to change it? 

The best we can do is attack the technical prob- 
lems, everything that results from the economic 
forces at work in film: production, processing, pre- 
lection . . . The young men who are just getting 
their start in film don’t have to know everything 
about it. They can get along very well without 
knowing anything about Lumiere or Eisenstein. 
They’ll run into them sooner or later themselves. 
The way it isn’t until he was thirty that Picasso 
got onto African art. And if he hadn’t just then, 
he’d have painted Les Demoiselles d' Avignon a 
few years later. He’d have done something else in 
the meantime. The young men have all the luck: 
they can always start over. People have been doing 
a lot they can benefit from, even if it’s been fairly 
haphazard, disorganized. They need to make a 
long list, get everything on it, the little things as 
well as the most important: everything involved in 
film that just wont do. Everything: from theater- 
seats— the worst are in the art-houses— to editing- 
tables. I bought an editing-table recently. It didn’t 
take me long to discover that nobody had asked 
the right questions. They’re manufactured by men 
who’ve never done any editing. I’m holding onto 
it. I’m hoping I’ll get the money to have it rebuilt, 
so that it will work right. 


In what sense has it been badly conceived? 

The way they’re manufactured is the result of a 
particular aesthetics. They’ve been conceived as 
little projectors. That’s fine for men who think 
editing a few pencilled notes: the director shows 
up Monday morning; he tells his cutter where to 
make cuts and splices; she takes the footage off 
the editor and does the work she’s been told to do 
at another table. Or, if it’s someone like Grangier 
or Decoin she works for— they just can’t be bothered, 
she’ll do the whole thing herself. But in any case, 
the real editing gets done somewhere else, not at 
the editing-table itself. But, there are movie-makers 
— Eisenstein’s the first, Resnais is the second. I’m 
the third— who do their editing, each in his own 
way, of course, right at the editing-table, with the 
image and against the sound. The problems you 
have with handling the film are completely dif- 
ferent. I keep winding the film back and forth. 
I make splices without ever taking the reels off. 
And if the table hasn’t been manufactured with 
work of this sort in mind, it’s not easy to do it. 
Again, it comes down to a simple economic gim- 
mick that all by itself bears out a whole ideology. 
If that’s how they manufacture editing-tables, it’s 
because three-fourths of the people editing film 
edit this way. Nobody’s ever told the manufacturers 
to do it differently, I use editing as an example, 
but the same kinds of thing turn up everywhere 
else. If you’re trying to make revolutionary movies 
on a reactionary editing-table, you’re going to run 
into trouble. That’s what I told Pasolini: his lin- 
guistics is a shiny, new, reactionary editing-table. 
Besides, the more movies I make, the more I realize 
just how precarious a thing a movie is: how hard 
it is just to get it made, and then how hard it is to 
get it shown— in other words, just how distorted 
the whole thing is. If problems like these were ever 
solved— though I don’t think they’ll ever be solved 
in the West— then we just might discover some new 
ways of working— ways to make film that’s really 
new. Things as new as the discoveries made in the 
very first years of film. Everything we’re using now 
was invented in the first ten or twenty years of the 
silents. Technique was moving right in step with 
production and distribution, then. Right now, we’ve 
lost sight of the ways they’re connected. Everything 
goes its own way— if you think it’s going anywhere 
at all. The only thing I’d want to write for Cahiers 
now— it would take time to do it; I’m always run- 
ning into something else to say on the subject— 
would be something about the ways to get film off 
to a complete new start. I’d discuss it in terms of 
the problems a young African would have to face. 


GODARD 


29 


rd tell him, “All right, your nation has just won 
its freedom. Now that you’re free to have a film 
of your own, you and your comrades have been 
asked to get it started. Okay. Get Jacquin and 
Tenoudji out of your theaters.”— You know, even 
in Guinea, the most revolutionary of the new na- 
tions, the theaters all still belong to Gomacico. And, 
though the Algerians have nationahzed their film- 
industry, they’ve handed it right back to the distri- 
butors, which means that in no time at all it’ll be 
back in private hands again; it’ll be just the way it 
was before. “You’ve decided to have a film of your 
own, to make film of your own. This means that 
you’re not going to import any more trash hke La 
Marquise des Anges. Book Rouch’s movies, or 
movies made by some young African he’s trained— 
anything that interests you. If you work for De 
Lauren tiis, don’t go to him. Make him build studios 
for you here. In other words, since you have it all 
still to do, turn it to your advantage. Make a thor- 
ough investigation of everything that’s involved in 
the production and distribution of movies. Build 
or rebuild your theaters— or what might replace 
them in the eyes and the hearts of your mihtant 
countrymen.” Things like that. It’s impossible to 
list the mistakes that have to be corrected. You’d 
have a list as long as the lists in Rabelais or in Mel- 
ville. But you’d have to try, if you really wanted 
to redefine film. To get back to Algeria; They should 
use the money they’ve made in co-production deals 
to build processing plants of their own, not in 
financing (aside from a couple of things hke Le 
Vent des Aures) Jacquin’s movies' I know it’s hard 
to believe, but half the money in Le Soleil Noir is 
the Algerians’. They haven’t even got their own 
processing plants: they send their newsreels to 
France or Italy, on Air France or Alitalia; they 
don’t trust Air Algeria. 

Ifs sometimes only too obvious that movie-mak- 
ers in the new nations imitate the very worst in 
our film when they’re making their own first shorts. 

Of course it’s also an individual, a mental prob- 
lem. But if you want to get off to a start, you’ve got 
to base yourself on a non-mental thing— on tech- 
nique. The new mentality can develop out of it. 
Obviously, things are hard, everywhere. The direc- 
tor of the Algerian Film Genter is convinced he’s 
better off having Jacquin or Tenoudji distribute 
his movies. That’s the tragedy of the Third World; 
it’s always in a corner, always in a jam for money. 
Everyone’s in league against it, the way they’ve 
all ganged up against the unemployed. The Algeri- 
ans produce Itahan movies instead of movies by 
young Algerians. They did give them some film. 


but the kids used it to make irresponsible junk. 
They’d do better, in such a case, to put a stop to 
their production for a time and give the kids the 
opportunity and the time to do a little homework, 
research, and to see as many good movies as possi- 
ble. The crisis will take care of itself. Or they could 
put them to work in television or in the processing 
plants and the sound studios. It would be all that 
more practical because no director, anywhere, really 
knows what goes on in an editing-room or a film 
lab. Everybody in film ought to get some training 
in the sector closest to his own. Cameramen, for ex- 
ample. They learn a little in school, but then they 
never go on to get some training in the film labs. 
As a result, the cameraman and the lab are never 
able to reach an understanding. Let’s say you shoot 
a movie with a man who’s a real master of light. 
Let’s say he’s as familiar with Renoirs as with 
Rembrandts. Fine. The print will be timed by a 
man who hasn’t the faintest idea what lighting is. 
No more Renoir’s than Rembrandt’s. So, as a re- 
sult, the print will be too dark, or too light, but in 
any case flat. Simply because the lab technician 
neither knows what he can nor what he should do. 
Or just the opposite. I just remembered that Matras, 
when he was in Madrid, spent his time sending his 
wife Mexichrome postcards instead of looking at 
pictures in the Prado. You run into the same thing 
at every level in film. Nobody’s really been edu- 
cated. It’s a question of education. Right here in 
France, there’s all you’d need to make really good 
movies. But the men who are supposed to be di- 
recting the work are lazy bums or highway-robbers. 
They employ honest men, but they give them no 
training and no responsibilities. The people who 
do the actual work think they’re doing it right. But, 
the thing is, they’re imprisoned in a whole system 
of economic and aesthetic preconceptions. What 
you have to do, then, is explain it to them. For 
example, you can explain to a projectionist that 
there just isn’t any point in closing and opening 
the curtains; film isn’t theater . . . And if projection- 
ists are so badly paid, it’s because no one thinks 
the work they do is work of any real importance. 
There’s as little respect for them as there is for 
the grips or the sound-men. A grip knows a good 
deal. He can, often, talk much better sense about 
film than his director. But he “doesn’t count.” And 
as for the men who manage the sound, they’re paid 
even worse than the men who make the image. 
Why? It’s a result, once again, of a whole ideology. 
So they say, “Why should we pay the sound-man 
as much as we pay the director of photography? 
Film is the art of the image!” That’s all wrong. But 


30 


GODARD 


the sound-man continues to get half what the 
cameraman gets— and, what's worse, to think it 
fair. If we start talking about distribution, we run 
right into another problem: the distributors. Film 
got off to a start without them. All it took was a 
cameraman and a director. What did Lumiere do? 
He took his movies right to the guy who ran the 
Grand Cafe. All right. But since then, distribution 
has become a trade. The middlemen— the distribu- 
tors— are lazy. They don't make a move. But they 
still keep on saying (and it's as much for them- 
selves as it is for us), “You can't do without us. It's 
all got to go through us." But the only reason that 
there are “distributors" at all is that everyone else 
is too lazy. The exhibitors won't move an inch to 
find the product to sell. The producers won't move 
an inch to take it to them. As soon as that happens, 
they need the third man— who robs them blind in 
the end . . . 

You want to: make different movies. But to be able 
to make them, you have to work with people you 
despise and dislike, instead of with people you like 
and admire. The industry's rotten to the core: from 
the point where the film is processed to the point it 
must reach— if it ever gets there— to reach a public. 
From time to time, of course, there's a hint things 
are beginning to move. The Hyeres festival, for ex- 
ample, isn’t ideal, but it's still a lot better than 
Cannes; and Montreal's better than Venice. You've 
got to keep moving ahead. Film in Canada is an 
interesting case. The National Film Board is a real 
movie factory. They're making more movies than 
Hollywood now. A beautiful set-up. But what hap- 
pens? Nothing. There's nothing to see. Their movies 
never get shown. One of the first things Daniel John- 
son should do is nationalize the theaters in Quebec. 
In Canada, too, film is subject to the imperialism that 
prevails everywhere else. Those of us who keep 
trying to make movies differently have got to organ- 
ize a fifth column, attempt to destroy the whole 
system. 

But some film is already being made outside the 
system . . . 

Yes, of course. Bertolucci isn't making American 
movies. Neither is Resnais, or Straub, or Rossellini, 
Neither is Jerry Lewis. But even this different film, 
good or bad, is no more than 1/10000 or 1/100000 
of what's being made. 

But is there still a really “American* film? 

No, there isn't. There's a counterfeit that calls 
itself “American," but it's only a very poor copy of 
what it was once. 

Would you work for an American company again? 

Yes, I would. If that's what I'd have to do to make 


a movie. Or if it gave me a chance to make an ex- 
pensive movie, like Michael, Circus Dog; I mean, a 
movie for which more money goes into the image 
than into the actors' pockets. In saying this, though, 
I don't compromise myself or my view of America 
and the imperiafistic policies of its giant film compa- 
nies. In the first place, there are Americans and 
Americans, good ones and bad ones. In the second 
place, there, too, they need a fifth column. You might 
get it into their heads that they could make differ- 
ent films too. You might even get them to want to. If 
the movie you made were a success, you might, 
Uttle by Uttle, get them to change their system them- 
selves. It would be hard. You keep running into 
their imperialism at every level of production and 
distribution. But you've got to hold onto the hope. 
People can change. Then again, something is on the 
move in America right now. You can see it among 
the blacks and in the opposition to the war in Viet- 
nam. And as for film, the universities are beginning 
to distribute movies; they're turning into real chains. 
New companies are being formed. I sold La Chi- 
noise to Leacock's. Anyway, the world's a little bit 
larger than America. But if I put the Americans and 
the Russians together into the same bag, it's because 
their systems are almost identical. They both treat 
their young movie-makers like naughty children. 
Every one of the Americans we really admire got 
his start in film at an early age. They're old now, and 
there's nobody there to take over. When Hawks got 
his start, he was Goldman's age now. Goldman's all 
by himself. Obviously, there are young men still who 
do get into Hollywood, but none of them have any- 
thing like Hawks's ideas. They've gotten what train- 
ing they have in structures that are on their decline; 
they haven't had the guts to destroy them. It isn't 
in freedom that they come to film; though it isn't in 
any real poverty, either, aesthetic or otherwise. They 
are neither explorers nor poets. But the men who 
made Hollywood were poets— even gangsters, who 
took it by force to dictate their poetic law. The most 
courageous man in Hollywood today, the only man 
who's managed to get out from under it, is Jerry 
Lewis. He's the only one in Hollywood who's doing 
something different, who remains outside its catego- 
ries, its norms, its principles. Hitchcock did for a 
long time. But Lewis is the only man who's making 
courageous movies right now— and I think he's aware 
of it. He can get away with it because of his per- 
sonal talent. But who else can? Nicholas Ray is typ- 
ical of the point American film has now reached. 
The case of the New York School isn't encouraging, 
either. They're already buried. And if it's “under- 
ground" film they want to make, it's got to mean 


GODARD 


31 


they’d like to be buried deeper. I don’t see why. The 
Russians haven’t helped Hanoi bomb New York. 
Why do they want to live underground? There are 
going to be more great American movie-makers. 
They’ve already got Goldman, Clarke, Cassavetes. 
We’ll just have to wait, help them, even push them. 
I was talking about the universities. Film’s being 
made in the universities— or, at least, they’re begin- 
ning to; there didn’t use to be any film there. That’s 
important. Film’s got to go everywhere. We should 
list the places it hasn’t been yet and then say that 
that’s where it’s got to go. If it’s not in the factories, 
it’s got to get into the factories. If it’s not in the uni- 
versities, we’ve got to get it into the universities. 
If it’s not in the brothels, it’s got to get into the 
brothels. Film has to get away from where it is 
now and go where it hasn’t been yet. . . . 

Where and when you get your start has a lot to 
do with how you get started. No one in France had 
been taking film seriously. Then people turned up 
who were saying you had to, that it deserved some 
serious thinking. For the same reasons, we had to 
say, too, that there is such a thing as a ‘work.” I 
don’t think now that there is. That’s a point you 
reach if you push your thinking on art just a little bit 
further. There is no such thing as a “work,” even if 
there is something that’s kept in cans or printed on 
paper, not in the way that there are such things as 
beings or objects. But, at the time, that was the thing 
we had to do first : force it on people that there was 
’work,” even if you have to tell them now that 
they’ve got to go a little bit further in their thinking. 
In the same way. I’ll say too that there is no such 
thing as an “author.” But to get people to understand 
in what sense you can say that, you have to tell them 
over and over again, first, that there’s such a 
thing as an “author.” Because their reasons for 
thinking there weren’t weren’t the right ones. It’s a 
question of tactics 

Aren't you increasingly influenced by theater? 

You’ve got to do theater in film, I think— mix 
things up a little. Mix it all up. Especially the fes- 
tivals. I think it’s absurd that they don’t hold the 
music and theater festival at the same time as the 
film festival at Venice. They should have music one 
night, film the next . . . You remember how it was 
at Pesaro: after you’d seen a movie you could go 
and hear jazz; you had a really good time. 

But when you say that, you've begun to attack 
one of the public's biggest taboos— against the mix- 
ing of genres. You begin to realize the damage done 
some thirty or forty years ago when the *Hheoreti- 
cians" would decree that something *"was theater, 
not film." 


There are a lot of movie-makers right now who’d 
hke to talk about theater- there’s Rivette and 
L' Amour Fou; Bertolucci and others. Persona, Blow- 
Up, Belle de Jour are part of it, too. And Shake- 
speare Wallah; that’s a beautiful movie. I suppose 
it means that people who’ve gotten the feeling 
they’re trapped by their means of expression want to 
get out of it. I’m not talking about Bergman now; 
he’s been doing theater all his life; he’s done more 
theater than he’s made movies. For a long time, 
now, I’ve been wanting to make a didactic movie on 
theater, about Pour Lucrece. At the beginning you’d 
see the girl who’d act the role get out of a cab; she’d 
be going to a rehearsal; no, not a rehearsal; she'd 
be going in for an audition. Then you’d get into the 
play. You’d see an audition, a rehearsal, a scene in 
performance. From time to time, there’d be some 
critique of the play itself. Some scenes would be 
done two or three times: the actors would make 
mistakes or the director would want to get some- 
thing just right. You could have the same scene done 
by several actors: Moreau, Bardot, Karina could 
each act the same role. And the director could re- 
view the seven or eight great theories of theater 
with the actors: Aristotle, the three unities, the 
Preface de Cromwell, The Birth of Tragedy, Brecht 
and Stanislavsky— but they’d be doing it in the play, 
still. At the end, the girl you saw coming in at the 
start would die: because Lucrece dies; you wouldn’t 
know where the fiction stopped, then. A movie like 
this would aim to teach an audience what theater is. 
Readings are just fantastic! When you get right 
down to it, the most fantastic thing you could film is 
people reading. I don’t see why no one’s done it. 
Film someone who’s simply reading . . . The movie 
you’d make would be a lot more interesting than 
most of them are. Why couldn’t film mean filming 
people reading really fine books? Why shouldn’t 
you see something like that on TV, especially now 
that people don’t read much? And people who can 
tell good stories, make them up— like Polanski, Gi- 
ono, Doniol. They could make up stories right in 
front of a camera. People would listen to them. If 
somebody’s telling a really good story, you can lis- 
ten for hours. Film would be going back to the 
traditions and role of the Oriental storyteller. We 
lost out on a lot when we stopped being interested 
in storytellers. But the ideology that tells us what a 
spectacle “is” is so firmly established that the people 
who’d been spellbound by the story you’d been tell- 
ing them at the Gaumont-Palace would come storm- 
ing out in a rage; they’d say you’d tried to take them 
for fools; they’d say they’d been robbed. 

But you don't question spectacle itself . . . 


32 


GODARD 


No, I don’t. If you look at something, it’s a spec- 
tacle, even if it’s just a wall. I’ve always wanted to 
make a movie about a wall. If you really look at a 
wall, you wind up seeing things in it. 

One gets the impression that there's an intention 
to destroy the image itself at work in your sketch 
Anticipation, to destroy it as the support for **re- 
alism." 

It annoyed me that it was much too easy to iden- 
tify the actors. When I started shooting it, I still 
hadn’t thought of anything like it. It was only later 
that it occurred to me to give the movie— you could 
call it a “biological” look— like plasma in motion. 
But plasma that speaks. 

But the minute you do that, you attack an idea 
that's almost sacred: the idea that an image in film 
is sharp, clean, '"solid" . . . 

But an image is always an image, as soon as it’s 
projected. So I haven’t destroyed a thing. Or else, 
one idea of the image and what it’s supposed to be. 
I never thought of it as destruction . . . What I 
wanted was to get inside the image, because most 
movies are made outside the image. What is an 
image? It’s a reflection. What kind of thickness does 
a reflection on a pane of glass have? In most film, 
you’re kept on the outside, outside the image. I 
wanted to see the back of the image, what it looked 
like from behind, as if you were in back of the 
screen, not in front of it. Inside the image. The way 
some paintings give you the feeling you’re inside 
them. Or give you the feeling you can’t understand 
them as long as you stay outside them. Red Desert 
gave me the feeling the colors were inside the cam- 
era, not out there in front of it. The colors are all 
in front of the camera in Le Mepris. You’re con- 
vinced it’s the camera that makes up Red Desert. In 
Le Mepris, there is the camera, on the one hand, 
the objects on the other, outside it. I don’t think I’d 
know how to make up a movie like his. Except that 
I’m beginning to want to. You can see my wanting 
to in Made in USA. That’s why people haven’t un- 
derstood it. The people who’ve seen it think it’s 
supposed to be “representational,” but it’s not. I 
must have put something over on them, because 
they kept trying to follow it “representationally”: 
they kept trying to understand what was happening. 
They did keep up with it, quite well. But they didn’t 
know they had: they kept thinking they hadn’t un- 
derstood a thing. It really impressed me that Demy 
was so fond of Made in USA. I’d always thought it 
a movie “in song”; La Chinoise is a movie “in talk.” 
The movie Made in USA resembles the most is Les 
Parapluies de Cherbourg. The actors don’t sing, but 
the movie does. 


Now that you bring up resemblance, is there a 
connection between Persona and your last few mov- 
ies? 

No, I don’t think so. And anyway, I don’t think 
Bergman likes my movies too well. I don’t think he’s 
taken anything from me— or from anyone else, for 
that matter. Anyway, after In a Glass, Darkly, Win- 
ter Light, and The Silence, he could hardly have 
made anything but Persona. 

Persona is much more daring stylistically than the 
preceding movies. The way the narration is "dou- 
bled," for one thing . . . 

No, I think the shot you’re talking about is, aes- 
thetically, just a continuation or a development of 
the long shot in Winter Light in which Ingrid Thulin 
confesses. But it’s much more striking in Persona, 
of course; it’s close to formal aggression. It’s so 
striking as a formal device that as soon as you see 
it you tell yourself “it’s so beautiful; I’ve got to use 
it in a movie myself.” I got the first shot for my next 
movie when I was seeing Persona again. I told my- 
self that what I needed was a fixed-frame shot of 
people talking about their genitals. But in another 
sense, it reminds me of the opening shot in Vivre sa 
Vie: I stayed behind the couple during the whole 
shot, but I could have gone round in front. What 
he’s doing is something like what the interviews are 
in my movies; it’s very different in Bergman, but, 
in the final analysis, it always comes down to the 
desire to represent a dialogue. And it has something 
to do with Beckett, too. At one time I’d wanted to 
film Oh! les Beaux Jours. I never did— they wanted 
to use Madeleine Renaud; I wanted to use young 
actors. I’d have liked to— I had a text, so all I’d have 
had to do is film it. I’d have done it all in one con- 
tinuous travelling. We’d have started it as far back 
as we had to to get the last line, at the end of an 
hour and a half, in a close-up. It would have meant 
just some grade-school arithmetic. 

How do you interpret what in Persona keeps re- 
minding you it's a movie you're watching? 

I didn’t understand Persona. Not a thing. Oh, I 
did watch it, carefully. This is the way it looked to 
me: Bibi Andersson is the one who’s ill; it’s the 
other girl who’s the nurse. When you get down to 
it, I guess I always rely on the “realism.” So, when 
the husband thinks he recognizes his wife, I think 
she’s his wife: he’s recognized her. If you didn’t 
rely on realism, you’d never be able to do anything. 
If you were on the street, you wouldn’t dare to get 
into a cab— if you’d even risked going out, that is. 
But I believe in it all. You can’t divide it up into 
two; you can’t separate the “reality” from the 
"dream”; it’s all one. Belle de Jour's really great. 


GODARD 


33 


There are moments when it’s just like Persona. You 
say, all right, beginning now Tm going to follow it 
carefully, so I’ll know just exactly where we are; 
then, all of a sudden, you have to say, damn it! 
we’re already there: you see you’re already in it. 
It’s as if you decided you wouldn’t go to sleep so 
that you wouldn’t be asleep when you went to sleep. 
That’s the problem these two movies pose. For a 
long time now, Bergman’s been at a point where it’s 
the camera that makes the movie, eliminating every- 
thing that can’t become part of the image. That 
ought to be axiomatic for all editing, and not no- 
tions like ‘‘the pieces have to be put together in just 
the right order,” or “there are rules that must be 
observed.” You ought, instead, to say that you’ve 
got to eliminate everything you can say. Even if you 
have later to turn it all inside out and say that all you 
can keep is what is said. That’s what Straub, for 
example, does. In La Chinoise, it’s only what’s said 
that I keep. But the result is completely different 
from Straub’s, because it isn’t the same thing that’s 
said. Bunuel eliminates everything that is said, since 
even what’s said is there to be seen, too. There’s a 
fantastic freedom in his movie. You get a feeling that 
Bunuel can ''play” film the way Bach must have 
played the organ at the end of his life. 

How do you view the notion of the door-to-door 
theater' Leaud picks up on at the end of La Chi- 
noise? 

I’m afraid it hasn’t been understood. I suppose I 
didn’t make it clear enough. It’s not he who’s in 
question; it isn’t an individualistic solution. The way 
I’d been thinking about it. I’d have had to show him 
together with others. One would have been playing 
a guitar; one would have been singing or drawing on 
the sidewalk— the kinds of things hippies do in front 
of cafes. But this time they’d be communists doing 
them. They’d have been doing real work: they’d be 
having to choose their text for the given situation, 
switching from Racine to Sophocles or something 
else. I really ought to have had more than one do- 
ing it. There’d have been times when they wouldn’t 
know what to say; they’d have to talk it over, to de- 
cide which was the right response. They might even 
start talking to the people watching them, engage in 
real dialogue. Instead of acting theatrical texts, they 
could have recited some Plato. There shouldn’t be 
any restrictions. It’s all theater; it’s all film; it’s all 
science and literature. If you’d mix things up a bit, 
we’d all be a lot better off. For example, the lec- 
tures in the universities could be given by actors; 
the professors speak like they’ve got mush in their 
mouths, anyway. And you could profit from that to 
learn how to speak a text, too, how to read it. It’s not 


just the conclusion you reach when you come to the 
end of Descartes’ sixth Meditation that counts, or 
having to be able to talk about his system on an 
exam, but the time it takes to reach its conclusion, 
the distance you have to go— in other words, the 
experience lived in learning about Descartes. I’m 
not saying this is the only thing that needs to be 
done; but, after all, when thousands of things need 
to be changed, I think you’d do well to try chang- 
ing just one or two, instead of saying right off, once 
and for all, that it’s good or it’s bad. 

Do actors, like movie-makers or technicians, need 
more study? Do they need more training? 

Training, yes. The kind the American actors used 
to get. If I were giving a course for actors. I’d give 
them physical or intellectual exercises to do, noth- 
ing else. I’d tell them, “now you going to some 
gymnastics” or “you’re going to listen to this record 
for the next hour.” Actors have so many prejudices 
in physical and intellectual matters. For example, 
when we were making Deux ou Trois C hoses, Ma- 
rina Vlady came up to me one day and said, “What 
should I be doing? You never tell me.” So I told her 
—she lives in Montfort-L’Amaury— I told her to walk 
to wherever we’d been shooting, instead of taking 
a taxi. “If you really want to act well, that’s the best 
thing you can do about it.” She thought I was put- 
ting her on, so she didn’t do it. I think I still hold it 
against her; just a little bit. She might have done it 
if I’d explained it all. But she’d only have done it 
once, and then the next day she’d be expecting me 
to come up with something else. So it just wasn’t 
worth explaining it. I wanted her just to think what 
she had to say. That’s all. Thinking doesn’t have to 
mean intellectualizing. If she was supposed to put 
a cup down on a table, I wanted her to think an 
image of a cup and an image of a table. Everything 
that’s involved in just walking to the location every 
day would have put her in shape to move and speak 
the way that would have been right for what I was 
trying to do. What I asked her to do was a lot more 
important than she thought, because to get to the 
point where you can think, you’ve got to do a few 
simple things just to get yourself into shape. Every- 
one knows diat a dancer can’t dance unless he trains 
himself for it every day, does his exercises. But the 
idea that actors need “exercise” too was already on 
the decline among the actors in theater. Film actors 
haven’t the slightest idea of what kind of exercises 
they ought to be doing. They tell themselves that 
since they don’t have to kick up their legs there’s 
just no point in exercise. Before shooting started on 
La Chinoise, I asked Jean-Pierre Leaud to eat. I 
gave him the money— I told him he couldn’t spend it 


34 


GODARD 


over at the Cinematheque— just so he’d be eating a 
meal, in peace and quiet, ninety minutes a day every 
day, not reading the paper, not doing anything but 
eating an ordinary meal in an ordinary restaurant. 
That’s what he needed to do for La Chinoise. Exer- 
cises like these are a little like a reverse yoga. It’s 
the kind of thing the surrealists used to call “practi- 
cal exercise.” They are needed in every activity, on 
every’ occasion. Actors don’t seem to remember 
they’re being paid for eight hours of work a day. 
Just like factory workers. The thing is, as soon as the 
worker reaches the factory he works— a. fuU eight- 
hour day; he can’t cheat. Actors can and ttiey do- 
like a lot of others in the white-collar professions. 
An actor doesn’t work an eight-hour day— if only 
because you can’t shoot eight hours straight. All I 
ask is that he do more work between the takes and 
less during them. Because, if he’s done his work 
before the take, I can be sure it’ll be good. It doesn’t 
do any good if he has to do his work during the 
take. The trouble is that it’s the hardest thing there 
is to get an actor to do. But even so, when we were 
making La Chinoise they got along pretty well. They 
worked well as a group; together they did just the 
right kinds of things to keep them in pretty good 
shape for shooting. It went a lot smoother than 
Masculin-Feminin. Obviously, now, everything I’ve 
been saying applies to professional actors as well. 
Neither the professionals nor the nonprofessionals 
are prepared to submit to the slightest training. Anna 
Karina’s like all the rest on this point. I kept telling 
her, all I wanted her to do was, every day, read the 
editorial in the paper, Le Figaro or VHumanitey 
aloud, calmly. She didn’t understand either. Even 
though little things like this have a direct influence 
on one’s acting. It’s exactly the equivalent of walk- 
ing for an athlete, scales for a pianist, limbering-up 
exercises for an acrobat. The big problem with ac- 
tors in film is that they’re often so very proud. So, 
they’ve got to be taught to be humble, the way the 
humble have to be taught to be proud. It’s as Bresson 
says, “give and receive.” And from this point of 
view, I see no difference between the professionals 
and the nonprofessionals. There are interesting peo- 
ple all over the place. But Bresson talks about actors 
the way the Russians talk about the Chinese. I kept 
telling him, “They’ve all got eyes, mouths, hearts 
. . .” And he’d keep saying, “No!” If I’d said, 
“Well . . . when Jouvet was still in his mother’s 
belly . . .” he’d have said, “Oh well, you know . . . 
Predestination!” 

There's a much larger problem involved in these 
exercises you've prescribed: it's a problem of edu- 
cation. For example, the characters in La Chinoise 


have all emerged from the bourgeoisie, which has 
given them the education they've begun to question. 

The fact is, it all lies in the way they’ve gotten the 
knowledge they have. Their education is an educa- 
tion in class. The way they conduct themselves is 
determined by class; they conduct themselves like 
members of their class. That’s all made very clear 
in the movie, anyway. On the subject of this “edu- 
cation in class” that prevails here in France, here’s a 
thing I cut out of a paper the other day; I’m keeping 
it because I’d like to make a movie on Rousseau’s 
Emile. Missoffe— he’s our Minister of Youth, remem- 
ber— is on record as saying— it’s in his White Book 
—and I quote: “The schools must translate the struc- 
ture of society into its programmes: it must organize 
( 1 ) a long and highly intellectual training for chil- 
dren appointed in the main by their family origins 
to the highest posts in the direction and administra- 
tion of society; (2) a shorter and simpler kind of 
instruction for the children of workers and peasanfs, 
whose entry into the labor-force, it would seem, 
requires no more than a limited training.” No com- 
ment. 

Tell us something about your Emile. What will it 
be? 

A modern movie . . . The story of a boy who re- 
fuses to go to his high-school because the classes are 
always too full. He sets about teaching himself, on 
the outside. He observes people, goes to movies, 
listens to radio, looks at television. Education, just 
like film today, is an immense accumulation of tech- 
niques that need to be re-examined, corrected. Ev- 
erything needs re-examination. What’s going to hap- 
pen to the son of a workman who decides he wants 
an education? Right at the start, he’ll find himself 
in a jam for money. We always get back to the 
Third World’s problems. The whole system of schol- 
arships is really immoral. They are supposed to go to 
those who “deserve” them. All right, who "deserve” 
them? Because the schools are recruiting right now, 
just like the army, and the kid who doesn’t answer 
the call just hasn’t the right to pass his exam, those 
who “deserve” them turn out to be the ones who 
always come to class, which means, then, the ones 
who can always afford to come, who don’t have to 
be working their way through school. Even if the 
ones who attend every class don’t necessarily learn 
any more than the ones who miss more classes than 
not. Then again, no one knows what to do to give 
people the desire or the time to learn. Then again, 
the teachers are so poorly paid! I don’t say it’s sim- 
ple. I’m just saying that there’s much too much 
that’s totally unacceptable, right from the start. 

Are you saying the problem has no solution? 


WEEK-END 


35 


No! Because, all the same, it’s nothing like it is in 
France in America, Russia, or even Albania. In the 
first place, they spend much more on education than 
we do. In France, the restrictions placed on funds 
are the result of deliberate policy. I refer you to 
MissoflFe. And de Gaulle. He’s just finished telling 
the Canadians that “they had a right to form elites 
of their own.” There’s the whole government men- 
tality, right there. Notice: he was careful to choose 
his words. He didn’t say, “You have a right to train 
more teachers, more researchers.” No, he said, “elites 
of your own.” The thing is, they already have an 
elite. Quebec doesn’t need to be free to have an 
elite of its own. 

In eastern-bloc nations, it’s much easier to get an 
education. But some kinds of training are still re- 
served for an elite. A thirty-year-old day-laborer 
cant ever hope to make movies. He’d have had to 
have been to film school. 

The work a day-laborer and an intellectual do 
are quantitatively but not qualitatively different. 
We’ve never been placed on an equal footing, which 


is why we can’t say or do anything together. A 
worker ... I have to repeat myself— a worker has 
nothing to teach me, nor I him. It ought to be just 
the opposite. There ought to be a lot I could learn 
from him and he from me, instead of its being me 
from my colleagues and he from his. That’s why 
some people today— the Chinese, let’s say, or, at any 
rate, some Chinese— want to change it. The hope 
of changing it isn’t utopian if you’re willing to reckon 
not on a few but on a few hundred years. Civiliza- 
tions last a long time. How can we expect the new 
civilizations that began with Marxism just a hundred 
and fifty years ago to be accomplished all at once? 
It’s going to take a thousand years, maybe two thou- 
sand. 

As a matter of fact, the world’s last Cultural Rev- 
olution is just two thousand years old. It was the 
Christian revolution. 

It’s only just starting to finish up. It’s produced 
nothing but reactionaries. The industries of image 
are still its most trusted mercenaries. 

[Translated by D. C. D.] 


JAMES ROY MACBEAN 

Godard’s Week-end, 

or the Self Critical Cinema of Cruelty 


Week-end, in more ways than one, equals 
“dead-end:” not for Godard, and not for the 
cinema, but for a particular type of cinema — 
the cinema of spectacle — which is pushed to its 
limit. Future generations (if there are any) 
may even look back upon Week-end as the 
terminal point of a particular phase in the de- 
velopment — or, more literally, the disintegra- 
tion of western civilization. The point seems 
clear: “civilization,” as it exists in Week-end, 
is doomed to devour itself. 

But Week-end, in spite of its searing in- 
sights and its sense of the general movement of 


history, offers a very selective view. Godard, in 
this film, concentrates almost exclusively on 
two of the most flamboyant aberrations of con- 
temporary life — the bourgeois materialist in his 
most aggravated fever of accumulation and 
consumption; and his double, the antibourgeois, 
antimaterialist drop-out from society, whose 
only alternative to the horror of the bourgeoisie 
is more horror still. “This is a helluva film,” re- 
marks the male lead in Week-end, “the only 
people you meet in it are sick!” The remark is 
crucial to the understanding of the film, for 
clearly Week-end is the negative and destruc-